The second year of Formation approaches. So far, unlike last year, there have been no dramatic abreactions from my subconscious. Sinead remains silent.
I am however approaching second year with a very mixed gait, a combination of skipping and a walk to the headmaster’s office. Since I have realized part of my spiritual malaise of late has been my lack of writing, I’m going to explore why here. This may take a while.
You’re always on about it
Let’s get a biggie out of the way. The Anglican church seems determined to splinter and fracture and cross each other off our Christmas cards list over the question of how people bonk. I’m sorry, but the recent depressing Pastoral (*cough*) Statement from the good bishops of the Church of England makes this clear: gay folk can live together, have close intimate relations, enter partnerships as much as they want. But not bonk.
It is extraordinarily hard to be part of all this, even in a Diocese that is probs the most loving and sensible on this matter in Australia. The hardest part is the pain this toxic exclusion causes my LGBTIQA+ friends. But it is also hard, because the church is being astoundingly dumb. The best reaction to the Pastoral Statement came from a bisexual Ordinand: “For the umpteenth time: truly, I say unto you, if I marry a man, our marriage will not be heterosexual. Amen.”
The CofE and much of Australian Anglicanism seems to be holding onto the extremely blown apart meme of ‘boy loves girl’, expressed in nice, clear-cut hetero missionary love. This does not exist. It never has. Life is far more complex, diverse and wonderful, as the quote above shows. Sometimes I feel like making whole swathes of the Church watch Ollie from ‘The Thick of It’ explain that, “not everybody is the same”.
It’s a word. Just a word. But it scares the bejesus out of some folk. And you know, I never really knew this until recently. Some folk, at the end of it all, when the glorious eschaton is upon us, actually want there to be people who do not make it, who are not part of the elite ‘God Club’, who are consigned to burn in flames for eternity. They want this. Cos, well if life teaches us anything, you can’t have winners without losers.
This does my bloody head in. If the Gospel, not life, tells us anything, it is that we are all going to be winners, because the Triune Divine made us that way – in Her image.
I recently read David Bentley Hart’s ‘That All Shall Be Saved’. A good book for arguments and scriptural referencing, but as he himself states, “none of this should need saying”. I cannot compare myself to DBH, but like him I worked out the logical fallacies of infernalist Christianity shortly after encountering it in within those all so beige high school prayer groups. And yet it persists.
I feel like I am wading through 1500 years of toxic theological poo to even begin to talk about these things in Formation. I was muted on the matter last year, but intend to be more vocal this year. It’s 2.0 after all. And of course, this is all perfectly orthodox. I mean, it’s all in my fave quote from MLK.
Keep your head down
This is the advice often given to new Formation candidates. Play nice, tick the boxes, get through. My response: no.
Formalized, Complex and Costly
The other day, I snapped alert out of my early morning reverie when I realized I have done all my theology units in my Masters degree. I’m supposed to know stuff. My response: no.
Endless Forms Most Beautiful
Formation has not been, and does not promise to be anytime soon, easy for me. Regardless of the pressures of time, work, study etc, theologically, I do not think Formation can be easy. As the name suggests, we are being formed towards the imago dei. Each imago dei, each person, is unique. The Triune Divine works and forms each of us personally, uniquely. We are therefore ‘operated upon’ in a completely different way than our fellow Candidates, in a unique way to match our unique imaging of the Triune Divine. This means we are necessarily alone in our process, in our Formation. That other Candidates don’t seem to be going through this soul-stretching mincing machine, remains one of life’s unsolved mysteries.
The other side of this of course, is that Formation is also where we unite through what connects us – that we are all made imago dei. We connect through the imprint of our Creator’s will within us and Her love for us. Our difference, like within the Triune Personhood, is what fosters and creates community. I have experienced this, becoming close and friends with folk I would never have dreamed of before. And it’s lonely.
So … Formation 2020, v.2.0 here we come … stayed tuned 🙂